Nancy and Sam welcome you aboard Windfall, our 1977 Maple Leaf sailboat. Windfall is a center cockpit design, 42' length, 13.5' wide, and 40,000 lbs of cruising fun!

On August 7th, 2010 we set sail on our "No Itinerary" world cruise and enjoying the "Cruising Life" very much! It's a wonderful adventure!!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bocas and the local islands - WOW!

  Whew! The crew of Windfall has been busy getting ready for Nancy's sister, Janet, and husband, Mike, to come aboard and spend a week here in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Chores have included slicing fresh sweet pineapples, and stocking the boat with all kinds of fresh veggies and goodies to enjoy.
Yummy fresh pineapple!
     Here at the dock is a group of volunteer's with FLOATING DOCTORS who volunteer their medical services to the local community and nearby islands. Nancy was asked to help with a project for an 5 year old girl with cerebral palsy who is blind and mute. The mother had asked for something to help shower her daughter. Soon the eager volunteers were on the dock measuring, cutting, and gluing a PVC frame for a waist high mesh top table.  Nancy sewed the mesh for the table and the next day went with the two other volunteers to take the table to the mother and daughter. I was going to put a picture of the little girl on this blog...I just couldn't, it really rips your heart out. But, the mother was very excited and happy for their "shower table" and couldn't thank them enough...Well done, everyone!

Wonderful volunteers of the Floating Doctors - Project nearly complete

      Mike and Janet arrived eager to see Bocas...after an hour in the warm sunshine I think they saw it all! Ha
    We were soon planning a 3 day sail & snorkel trip to Crawl Cay, Zapatilla Islands, and Bahia Azul.     
     Crawl Cay was great, we dropped anchor in a flat calm pool of blue-turquoise water. Coral and fish were spotted along with one lobster. Lots of snorkel boats come here filled with tourists thirsty for the warm water and cold beers at the nearby beach-side cafes.
     After a breakfast of Nancy's now famous "Banana Pancakes", we managed to motor all the way to the white sandy beaches of the Zapitilla Islands a mere 5 miles away. As you can see in the picture below...there were "horrible conditions" least for sailing that is!
Hey Mike! Are you having a good time? Just look at that water! WOW!   
     We dropped anchor for the afternoon in the crystal clear 20 foot depth and could see the anchor's chain leading all the way to the white sandy bottom. Sadly, Janet came with, or acquired, a stomach bug that kept with her the entire trip thus limiting her water activities and taste for local fares.
That's our NEW anchor buoy !
     The Zapatilla Islands are part of the beautiful Bastimentos National Park where $10 is required to visit for the day...and worth every penny! Snorkeling these two island paradises are exactly as wonderful as you can imagine. The turquoise blue Caribbean water was at a very comfortable 82 degrees, flat calm, light wind, and with enough sunshine to burn the Coppertone Baby! 
   Colorful coral reefs surround both Zapatilla islands. With many tropical fishes, sponges, and giant brain coral as big as a table, it's hard to decide where to go snorkel next!  
Giant Brain Coral

A colorful Bluehead Wrasse hiding among the coral

Whew! Another "rough anchorage" for the crew of Windfall (Bahia Azul)
     We sailed in light winds to Bahia Azul, or Laguna de Bluefield as shown on the charts. The bay is named after the Dutch pirate Blauvelt, who roamed these waters in the 17th century in search of booty...or maybe just looking for great place to snorkel! 
     A fisherman came along side and asked if we wanted to buy his 3 lobsters he had in his canoe. Sure! How much? "Ummmm, $1 each", he said shyly. Soon the dollar lobsters were aboard with promises of more to come tomorrow!
     We met Enrique while taking his boy to school in a canoe. Enrique is the Ngobe (pronounced "No-bee") chief of Punta Allegre (Happy Point). He offered to guide us to a nearby waterfall and to meet his family. Whew! We piled into Blondie (our dinghy) for a trip up the small creek lined with lush jungle vegetation. We docked and begin hiking the trail to the village.  It was a hike uphill then down to see the waterfall, but the views were wonderful and the water was clean, fresh, and cool as we stepped in. Ahhhhhh, that's nice! 
"Chef Enrique" showing us the trail from the dock to the village

Jungle explorers on the hunt for action and adventure

Path with Enrique leading us to the village

New construction...and what a VIEW! WOW! With a nice cool breeze to beat the heat
     Before leaving that afternoon, we watched as several 5-12 year old students canoed back home from school....curious, they turned toward Windfall. Nancy was ready with chocolate chip cookies for all. Let me just say here....wild dogs couldn't have got a cookie faster than those little hands!  "Whoa! Whoa! ONE cookie per student!"   Quickly, manners returned to the cockpit and smiles were on each child's face...with a few little cookie crumbs too. 
About 10 Ngobe students stopped by for chocolate chip cookies

     Sure to his word, our lobster buddy had nine more lobster for the crew of Windfall! Mike gave him $10, then another $5 as the "pescador" (fisherman) cleaned his catch for us...and we learned how to get a little more meat in the process! Yum! 
     He kept the heads and bodies, surely his family will be enjoying a nice lobster bisque for dinner that night...or just lobster soup I suppose.
     As we left the calm bay we were facing 22 knots of wind right on our nose (of course) and 3 foot waves from the open ocean. It made for a choppy ride till we passed into the lee of the Zapatilla islands on our return to Bocas five hours away. 
     With a call from our VHF radio, our friends were waiting at the dock to help catch Windfall's lines. Easy to dock with no wind, but we were a bit worried with 17 knot winds blowing as we entered the marina! Thankfully, the wind died as we entered the marina and a smooth docking was made...Thanks to our crew and helpful friends! (no boats were harmed during this docking)
      The next morning Rick and Sue (Moonshine), with Mike, Janet, Nancy, and I made a trip to the Oreba chocolate farm. First you start with a wild and fast water taxi ride to the mainland, then catch a van to the farm and then begin the hike to the top of the mountain where the Cacao (chocolate trees) grow.
Our water taxi had a Yamaha 200 horsepower motor...and USED IT ALL!

Totally organic and delicious chocolates are grown here!

Our guide showing various edible plants we will be eating with lunch later in the day.
Another path.....UP-hill............ALWAYS UP-hill !

Huff... Huff... Puff.........I think we lost the trail !
We spotted the elusive "Red Frog" in the jungle forest....pretty cool!

Yep! That's a chocolate pod with seeds...the white pulp tastes like melon. Yes, delicious like that too!

These are Nibs. The seeds after being  roasted in a pan over a open fire...the real way to make chocolate.

Nancy working the stone to grind the roasted seeds to make the "original" chocolate.... like they did 500 years ago!

Cocoa pods on the branch and ready for harvest.

First you ferment the seeds with banana leaves for eight days.....
...then you dry in a hot-house.... turning every half hour....for eight more days...

......Then you celebrate with delicious chocolates!

       We had a great time with Mike and Janet aboard and we are looking forward to more family and friends coming along on our next adventures. 
     We enjoyed a wonderful lobster dinner as a going away for Mike and Janet. Sam cooked the lobsters with butter and roasted garlic, Rick & Sue (Moonshine) brought along an awesome fried rice to go with Nancy's nearly-famous coleslaw salad and coconut macaroons were served for a sweet dessert.... YUM!!!

     Hey Nancy! Have you seen the chocolate we brought back from Oreba Chocolate Farm? What? I can't hear you with your mouth full of choco....HEY! SAVE ME SOME!!!
How do you end a great vacation? With a delicious lobster tail dinner with friends and family of course!
Thanks Mike & Janet!

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